National Liaison Committee Meeting for the NWQP — Part 2

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In these videos, speakers discuss upcoming changes to the USGS National Water Quality Program (NAWQA Project) and three new priority areas for the USGS Water Mission Area. Gary Rowe discusses plans for transitioning from current NAWQA Project activities to the new priority areas. Chad Wagner discusses plans for the Next Generation Water Observing System (NGWOS), which will provide high-fidelity, real-time data on water quantity and quality. Katie Skalak presents information on the Water Prediction Work Program, or 2WP, an ambitious federal partnership for developing a national, interagency new capacity for water prediction. And Mindi Dalton shares plans for the Integrated Water Availability Assessments (IWAAs), which will predict water availability for human and ecological uses at regional and national scales.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:30:15

Location Taken: Washington, DC, US


- Thank you, Gary. So today, I'll just talk mostly, not about the entire program. I think Gary gave a pretty good overview of that new water observing system program. I'm just gonna focus on this next generation water observing system, and what Gary had shown you in that first set of slides was a set of the new water missionary priorities and how they build, so I won't touch any more on that NWIS modernization, but basically, that's the foundation of it all. So we have to really upgrade our data storage to be able to house this next generation type of information. Right now, we're pretty limited on what we can store in our databases, so we've got to upgrade that, and then also the way we deliver our information. We've got to get it, we've got to push that out more to folks rather than having them have to come find our information. We've got to get it out to them, so. So NWIS modernization is a key piece and it's a key piece of the next generation water observing system. They're intertwined, so the plan that we've laid out to Congress for the next generation water observing system includes an NWIS modernization piece, and I'll touch on that a bit. So I'll just kind of set the stage a bit for why this has become a priority for USGS. So we've got about 30 million stream reaches in the U.S. And currently, we've got about a little over 8,200 streamflow gauges that monitor streamflow continuously year round. So that's 3/100 of 1% of the network of streams in the U.S. that we're actually monitoring. So in order to be able to utilize that, the modern, or actually, in the future, the models that will be available for prediction, we really don't have the observation data sets currently to be able to drive those models. We don't have the information to understand, really, the uncertainty of those models, of our predictions. So, and so as Gary mentioned, the water sub-cabinet is really charging USGS with monitoring and improving predictions for water across the nation. So in order to do that, we've really got to increase the ability in our observing network. So, and on to add to that, the National Academy Sciences, as Gary mentioned, did an analysis and gave us some suggestions on where USGS needs to be or how we need to inform water science over the next 25 years, and part of that, I'm just gonna talk about some highlights specifically for observing, and so these are just some bullets that we really need to allow for observations that come from array of sources. So not just USGS, which is a slight paradigm shift from where we've been in the past. We do serve some furnished data from some providers, but those data have gone through a rigorous USGS quality assurance and approving process. So they're asking us to rethink the way that we serve other people's data and that could include citizen science as well. So that's something that we're looking at now. We need to be more affordable. We need to be more efficient, so that we can get more data collection out on the landscape. So what that might mean is that we're gonna be, well, it is, we are actually looking at some low-cost streamflow sensor technologies. There's actually a challenge right now with USGS Bureau of Rec to look at lower streamflow monitoring alternatives in equipment, and so there's a big push right now to try to lower the cost of streamflow monitoring. So if we're able to do that, we can be more affordable. We can get more out on the landscape. We also have to be able to be very clear of the metadata and the uncertainty associated with the various types of information that we serve. So if we're serving people who have come to, accustomed to the information that USGS serves to be of a certain quality, but if we're gonna start to serve other agencies' data that maybe have a different level of uncertainty, then we need to make sure that's clearly conveyed. And so what we're trying to do is deliver more information that maybe it's fit, give people more opportunities to adjust that data for their purpose. So fit-for-purpose data, so potentially, you don't need the high level of quality in the particular streamflow information for your situation, and so you don't want to be limited. There could be a lot of information that's out there that you don't have access to, you don't know about, so we want to make those additional data discoverable, and be able to be used for fit-for-purposes. And the last one is we want to really get into continuous measurements and delivery of water quality, velocity, different types of parameters that we haven't done in the past. So let me just talk a little bit about what the next generation water observing system is, and I'm gonna use the acronym NGWOS for the rest of the time, just for ease here. So what we want to do, the ultimate goal over on the left is support modern water prediction and decision support systems. So we want to be able to provide the data sets that will drive current and future prediction systems. So integrated modeling to be able to do a better job at predicting water for the nation. And how are we gonna do it? There at the bottom, so we're gonna utilize an integrated set of fixed and mobile assets that are in the water, on the ground, as well as in the air. So typically, we have been more accustomed to our instrumentation just being in the water, but now we're looking at instrumentation that's really above the water, and actually in the air, in the sky. So we're not limited to the way that we've been doing things in the past. We're really looking to, as the name says, go next generation on the way that we observe. And then finally, what type of information are we gonna provide? Water quantity, quality, and water use data to drive those modern prediction systems. So there's three main components, I touched on this a bit. The first one, the one that I'm gonna focus mainly on, is the observing network, the equipment and the data delivery systems. So what new station, gauging stations? What are we gonna be serving? What are we gonna be delivering at those new gauging stations? That's the number one, and probably will, and it does, that's the largest portion of the budget for NGWOS is that number one. Number two is modernization of the USGS data management, the infrastructure and data delivery mechanism, so that's that NWIS modernization piece, and then the last one is our Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility. So that's a lab facility that we have down at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, that does a lot of our quality assurance of our instrumentation, does testing of new instrumentation of sensors, so for us to go next generation, our HIF, we call it, is a critical component of that. And so that facility right now is antiquated and we are, actually, the lease is running out within the next couple of years, so we've got to revamp and redesign and move out of that space into something different, so part of NGWOS is revamping our HIF. So what is the design strategy? So as I mentioned very, very early on, we can't afford to monitor everywhere. We have those 30 million stream reaches. We can't afford to monitor everywhere. So we've got to leverage our resources to try to strategically monitor so that we can really enhance our model predictions. So what are we gonna do? We're gonna implement NGWOS, the current plan is in about 10 medium-sized watersheds. So 10 to 20,000 square mile range. So we're gonna try to do that in watersheds that are representative of larger water resource regions here. So these are the 22 major water resource regions in the U.S. And so when we're trying to select the basins where we want to go in and implement NGWOS, we want to have at least one candidate basin in each one of these 22 water resource regions. Some may have more than one as a potential candidate, of course, but we want to be able to come into these basins and represent the conditions, the environmental settings of many different conditions across the country, so that we can try to represent larger areas. So we're gonna have, the thought is that we can go into a basin that's 10 to 20,000 square miles, which, an example of one here is the Delaware River basin, which I'll get into in a second. So if we go into a basin like the Delaware and we instrument it heavily with high spatial, high temporal, new types of water quality information, and we are able to really refine our prediction capability in that basin, and we really refine our predictive capability and understanding the physical processes in a basin like that, then we can expand it out to larger basins, were we don't have as an intense water monitoring system and our models that we've developed now that have been refined in these NGWOS basins will have a better predictive capability. So that's the thought around the NGWOS design strategy at this point, and if things go well and we get to the end after doing 10, potentially, Congress will say, well, let's keep going, let's continue on, and there'll be maybe enough stakeholder support and say, now I want one in my backyard as well. And so but the plan right now is 10 basins that we will implement over a course of 10 years, and I'll show you that in a second. And so when fully implemented, NGWOS will also provide high temporal and spatial data for real-time field, but also remote sensing data on all of these water budget components, so we've got snowpack down to streamflow, water quality, runoff, soil moisture, urban runoff, water use, groundwater and surface water interactions, groundwater levels and quality. So all of these water budget components, NGWOS is gonna try to touch and try to provide new, real-time, and remotely sensed information. So how can we apply NGWOS? What are some practical applications? Like I mentioned, we really wanted to drive our improved predictive capabilities, and we want to be able to also characterize and reduce uncertainty, not only in field measurements, but also in model prediction. So with this additional type of information, we'll be able to do that, and then the uncertainty estimates from our modeling, our model efforts, and once we know where we've got higher uncertainties, that can help drive where additional monitoring is necessary, so then we can strategically invest in additional monitoring in certain areas, so if we go, we're in the basin, we're in the NGWOS basin, and then we develop those tools, and then we take those tools and we expand them to larger regions, then we can use those, the output of those larger models, the uncertainties, we can find out where we have had the most uncertainty in our model, and we can target our additional resources for monitoring in those strategic locations. So what's the question NGWOS can help answer? I won't go through all of these, but just wanted to give you some examples. So what are some of the near and long-term risks of floods and droughts and what scenarios change these risks? How much water is stored in our seasonal snowpack, and how much, how will that change water availability? And so, what is the quality of water? How does it change during wet and dry periods? So this is not exhaustive, but this is just some examples of some questions that NGWOS can help answer. So here's the plan for NGWOS and the monitoring budget. This is only the monitoring piece. This doesn't include the NWIS modernization or the improvements to the Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility. So you can see, the idea would be to start with watershed one in year one. This amount, 7.8 million, would be the cost of purchasing the equipment, installing, and getting that network up and running, working with stakeholders to find out where we need to monitor, where are the best locations, and then getting that network up and running. And then in the out years, this 4.5 million, is to maintain, to operate and maintain that network, to continue it running, so that we don't stand it up and then there's no money there to continue to operate. And so as you can see, in year two, we would stand up the second watershed, and then O&M. So as you can see, this drops down through 10 years. It's basically a 10-year plan to get those 10 watersheds up and running. And then if things go well, potentially, we can continue on with watersheds 11, 12, 13, and so on. So this is the plan, which, so we received some funding in FY18, about a million and a half, to get things kind of kicked off. We started to implement this in the Delaware, and this year, we received an additional seven million, as Gary mentioned, to finish out, to help finish out the Delaware, but also do a lot on NWIS modernization. We really have to front-load in with modernization, as you can tell, because if we collect all this information, this new information, but we have nowhere for it to go, then we've got things out of sequence. So a lot of this new money has gone to front-load are NWIS modernization activities. So the pilot, so I mentioned that we got the funding in 18 and 19, so we started in the Delaware River Basin. It made sense. We've got a very ecologically diverse watershed that provides water to over 15 million people. So it's a very visible, very high-profile watershed. So there was a lot of political interest as well in this watershed, so it made sense to start out here. So what have we done so far? So the blue dots here, hopefully, you can see that all right, were the existing monitoring stations in the Delaware River basin. The different colors here in the background are the physiographic regions, just to give you a context here. So this is the, the Appalachian Plateau's up here, I believe, and this, so these blue dots are existing, the red is where we've done enhanced mainstem monitoring, so addition of temperature and salinity monitoring, and really revising the way that we are communicating the telemetry equipment as well. The small, the green dots, are small stream monitoring, so these are small and more headwater streams. So we're increasing by about 50 new gauges in areas like that, and we're increasing or adding streamflow to that, our various water quality parameters. And then, so right now with the funds that we've got, we've got about 57% of the planned FY19 needs for NWIS modernization, and we've got about 50% of the network in the Delaware River Basin implemented. So we've got about halfway to go, and our focus on that next 50% in this basin will be more on very specific, continuous water quality, and the groundwater piece, so we've really focused more on surface water flow and some connectivity and salinity in this first 50%. The next will be focused more on more water quality, constituents, as well as the groundwater piece. So part of that second component of NGWOS now, that NWIS modernization and data delivery. Just wanted to show you some things that we're working on now. This is a dashboard, we like to call it, that we'll be able to have new ways of displaying the information from the Delaware. We really want to push this out nationally, but this is a, here's the basin. This background is the precipitation and you can change that for various, three day, one day, seven day, historical precipitation amounts, overlaying on top of the gauging network, this particular show in the stream gauging network, I believe, and so the green, the color coding is based on what the percentile of flow is at that point. Okay, so based on what, based on the historical record, what's the streamflow that day relative to, historically, on that day, and over here, you could select, I want to look at just lake information. I want to look at wells, water quality, precipitation, weather conditions. So it'll be a little bit more in-depth and intuitive than the current way that we deliver our information. Another thing that we're really pushing out on is we're putting up webcams at a lot of our stations to really add some, another dimension to the way that we deliver data. So here's an example of a video of a webcam at a location in Wisconsin, and you'll notice here that we're actually showing the streamflow and the water levels so that you can get a context of what things look like, what a streamflow of a thousand CFS looks like, and you can look and see what the stream looks like. And so what was interesting about this, which you can start to understand, is when we saw this ice jam form, that we saw the water levels go up, but streamflow went down, so some people may be like, what's going on with that? And so once you have the context of, oh, well, there's an ice jam occurring, and you can see the water levels coming up, the streamflow's going down. It just adds another dimension to what we can provide. So we're excited about being able to provide that information at most of our gauging stations, but this, being able to serve up and store videos, takes a quite a bit of infrastructure improvement. So that's part of that NWIS modernization. Another type of data delivery that we're trying to get to is here's a, something we just came out with and published. It's an annual water conditions summary for the water year of 2018. And so what you see here is if you see big blue dots, that means there's flooding going on, large red circles, we've got really dry conditions or drought setting up. So this is just plain through the year, so it started in October and now this dial is, we're in February now, and so, and it also annotates different hydrologic events that are going on throughout the year. And so this just will take you through 2018. And so you get a snapshot throughout the year of what's going on. We want to get to this as more on a seasonal basis, not just wait until the end of the year, but as the end of the season, put this up so that we can start to get a sense of what's going on. So that we have a better sense of what's gonna happen the next season, and the next season, and we want to incorporate groundwater into this as well. This is just streamflow, but if we can have groundwater conditions on top of this, we can really start to have a better understanding of what conditions may be like coming up in the summer. We may have some, streamflows may be high, but our groundwater levels may be really low. And so we maybe have that false sense of security if we're just looking at streamflows, what the summer conditions may be like. The last piece I want to just touch on is that we really want, part of the NGWOS is looking at new ways to collect information, and that's not just in the stream or on the ground, but it's actually in the air as well. So using remote sensing to develop new streamflow techniques and measuring water quality through drones and new unmanned, underwater vehicles as well. This is some exciting work that we're doing now in Alaska, actually, where we're having some success at measuring discharge without putting any people in the water, completely from satellites. So we're trying to push the envelope there as well. We're not gonna probably be able to do that everywhere in the near term, but in remote areas, there's some good potential to do so. So what kind of things can we measure with remote sensing? So from water quality, just, I won't read all these off, but these are just some things that we're really looking to push with remote sensing with NGWOS, and I don't think we're that far away for many of these things. So what are the next steps? So ongoing testing of equipment in the Delaware River Basin. Within the Delaware River Basin, we've got some strategically located locations that we're calling our innovative testbed sites. So we're going in there, we're working with vendors, things that maybe are under beta level, or alpha level even, with sensor technology development, and we're implementing them. We want to call them innovation sites or maybe high-risk sites, too. Those sites that, or those technologies that we're not ready yet to put out on a wide scale, but we're ready to put at a few sites and see how they operate, see how they work. So that's a big part of this program. We're working on a plan, multi-year plan, for not only the Delaware River Basin but other basins, so what is NGWOS gonna look like in these other basins? Now some of them are gonna be, well, they're all gonna have very specific issues and stakeholder needs, so we can't have a plan, one plan that fits all for all these basins, but we want to have an overarching, detailed plan of what types of information and what our overarching goals for each basin. We talked about remote sensing, and we also want to look at a network design and gap analysis across the nation, so that we can, when we go into a basin, we can already have a pretty good understanding of where we have gaps. With a very calculated and methodical gap analysis across the nation, that'll really help us once we go into the next basin. And right now, we're working on selecting basin number two, which is gonna be in the west, and we need to have that selected by the end of FY19. So we've got a team that's forming right now to develop what the criteria are gonna be. And then we're gonna get some limited stakeholder engagement and input for this second basin. We've kind of got a roll on that pretty quick. With basins three through 10, we're gonna have a much more well-vetted stakeholder input process to select those next basins. And finally, just continued research-to-operations, so working with vendors, working with our HIF to develop new technologies, put them in the field, work out the kinks, get them into an operational mode that we can move out to the nation. So not only in the NGWOS basins, but across our entire enterprise of stream gauges and water quality monitoring networks across the country, so we're not stopping doing all of that. We still want to, we still need to increase our footprint in those other basins as well, but these NGWOS basins can be those test beds to really push out how we monitor on a national extent. So just, last, just want to show you that this, Mike Woodside is the Deputy Program Coordinator for our program, and he's also currently leading the NGWOS effort. So Mike or myself here, feel free to contact either one of us with questions or input, and then here's some, just some links that are pertinent to our program, I just wanted to throw out there for you. And with that, I'll take some questions. We can have any kind of discussion that you'd like to. Yep.

- [Woman] I'm just gonna say, I don't remember, you said that's, are you looking for input from stakeholders on selecting different watersheds?

- Yes, so what we're gonna, the plan for basin selection is our selection team is gonna come up with about, probably about 50 candidate watersheds nationally. Then we're gonna interact with certain stakeholder groups, ICWP, Western States, Tony's group, some of our federal partners, and we're gonna whittle that down probably to about 25, and then within those 25, we're gonna go out to the local entities, the water science centers, and really get that kind of input to really, okay, notice that I had about 25, or 22 water resource regions? So we're gonna really have at least one in all of those water resource regions, and then we can go into those regions and have a more detailed conversation about, okay, which of these watersheds makes the most sense to do, and remember, we want it to be a watershed that will be representative of a larger area. So we want to have a diversity of watershed types and water resource issues represented in those 10. Sir.

- [Man] Are there certain priorities that you're placing around capturing those initial 50 that you're gonna put out there for . For example, are there priority watersheds that are under stress or possibly more agricultural areas highly drained . Our new drainage is kind of the key area that they propose.

- Yeah, that will be, that'll definitely be part of the selection process, but right now, we're in the early stages of laying it all out, but absolutely, I mean we want to represent those areas that are, have significant nutrient inputs and issues. We want to have those areas that have our agricultural concerns of withdrawals and inputs, snowmelt-dominated systems, arid Southwest. We're already in the humid East with a very urban population, so it's, it's hard with 10 to represent the national extent of our water challenges, but we're gonna try to do the best that we can. Okay.

- [Man] Question about the budget. You showed a chart for 10 years in 10 sites. And as I recall, the maintenance or the average cost after some initial startup, buying equipment and so forth, was about 15 million dollars a year per site.

- [Chad] 4 1/2.

- [Man] 4 1/2, okay.

- [Chad] Per basin, yup.

- [Man] Does that go into perpetuity?

- [Chad] That's what's in the plan, yup. That's what we've sent to Congress and they understand that this is not something they can walk away with. We are engaging other, we are gonna be engaging other cooperators in the basin to either help with standing up more than just what these funds can handle, but the idea is that these will be appropriated funds that run this NGWOS basin that the instrumentation in these NGWOS basins.

- [Man] And part of the goal here is to develop an integrated model that can do, answer some of the questions as well as others. After that model is calibrated and verified, so does the need for monitoring decline, increase, stay the same?

- Yeah, I would think that it would stay the same. The people that are relying and making water resource decisions on a daily basis are gonna come to rely on this information. So I wouldn't think it would decline. One of the ideas we have for the NGWOS basins are to go into a sub-basin with intensive monitoring for a couple of years, and then leave a footprint of monitoring stations there but then rotate it to another sub-watershed within that basin, so that you're rotating around the watershed and leaving a footprint behind, but that you're generating it at least a couple of years of really intensive data collection, and so I could see that that would be a cycle that may be able to continue as you move out beyond those, that 10-year period. It's a good question.

- [Man] And it kind of leads, it's a good segue into our next speaker, that. So I'm gonna introduce Katie Skalak right now to take over and talk about the Water Prediction Work Program. Katie's actually research hydrologist with our National, former National Research Program, a geomorphologist by training, but she's now the chief Science Adviser for the water prediction.